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Russia seeks to outlaw LGBTQ movement as ‘extremist’

Supreme court to consider justice ministry request to outlaw ‘international LGBT public movement’ as extremist

The Russian justice ministry on Friday said it had filed a lawsuit with the supreme court to outlaw what it called an “international LGBT public movement” as extremist, in the latest attacks against the country’s already suppressed LGBTQ+ community.

The ministry said in an online statement that authorities had determined “signs and manifestations of extremist nature” in “the activities of the LGBT movement” in Russia, including “incitement of social and religious discord”.

The ministry did not clarify what it meant under the “international LGBT public movement” or how the designation would apply. Russia’s supreme court is expected to consider the lawsuit later this month.

The Kremlin has previously used the extremist label to prosecute human rights groups, independent media and political opposition, including allies of the Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, some of whom have received lengthy jail sentences.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has launched a fresh effort to promote “traditional values”, with the Russian leader making anti-gay rhetoric one of the cornerstones of his political agenda. In previous speeches, Putin accused the west of “moving towards open satanism”, citing the promotion of gay and transgender rights in Europe as an example.

The Russian president repeated his disdain for the LGBTQ+ community during a speech on Friday, referring to trans people as “transformers”.

Friday’s lawsuit comes after several recent laws introduced to suppress LGBTQ+ people in Russia. Earlier this year, Putin signed a law that banned “LGBT propaganda” among adults. The bill criminalised any act regarded as an attempt to promote what Russia calls “non-traditional sexual relations” – in film, online, advertising or in public.

In the aftermath, Moscow’s Bolshoi theatre dropped a contemporary ballet about the Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev from its repertoire, while bookstores and cinemas withdrew all content containing LGBTQ+ themes.

Some of the Kremlin’s efforts to stifle the LGBTQ+ movement have been mocked by critics for their level of absurdity. Last week, a popular Russian television channel removed a rainbow featured in K-pop music, leading to a request by the Russian Duma to officially declare there was no link between rainbows and the LGBTQ+ community.

Over the summer, Russian lawmakers also banned medical intervention and administrative procedures that would allow people to change gender.

Human rights activists on Friday condemned the proposed bill, saying the proposals were an attempt to create an internal enemy as Russia’s war in Ukraine dragged on.

Igor Kochetkov, the head of the rights group Russian LGBT Network, said the bill was part of Moscow’s effort to “create imaginary enemies within the framework of its ideology promoting ‘traditional values’”. “This ideology is becoming totalitarian,” he said.

Kochetkov said that while the wording of the bill was vague given that “there is no such thing as an international LGBT movement”, it was clear to him that all “legal activities of LGBT organisations will be impossible in Russia”.

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